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A Little Ocean Ambiance
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Doctrinal Writings
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The System Failed...

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Dr. Richard Flanders
Juniata Baptist Church
Vassar, Michigan
Recently I saw a newspaper headline that revealed some of the delusion that grips the public mind of America today. It declared that "the system failed" a young man in our state who is now in great trouble. The young man was a minor on trial as an adult for murder. You see, people had sought the help of whatever state agency fixes wayward children, but that agency, and therefore the state, and consequently society as a whole, "the system," had failed to give him enough help to keep him from killing somebody. It's a story we hear over and over again. Something bad happened because the system we have constructed and financed to keep bad things from happening somehow had failed! What a wild delusion—the belief that men can construct a system that can prevent calamity! It is a false notion, but it is widely believed.

What does the media do whenever anything really bad happens? If there is a fire that takes somebody's life, they check the records to see when the building was last inspected. When there is a school shooting, they see if the teachers had detected any "signs" that the shooters were about to shoot or if the school had handled properly any problems that might have "precipitated" the bloodshed. When child abuse is discovered, they want to see the files of the child-protection department to see if evidence of abuse had previously been overlooked, and if anything had been done to prevent the harm that had finally been done. When an earthquake brings buildings down, had the codes been enforced? Whenever anybody shoots anybody, why was the gun not registered and regulated? When there is a suicide, where were the counselors and self-esteem promoters at the workplace, or the school? If something goes wrong, it must be because the system failed, people think.

That's why such a big part of any service professional's job is paperwork. Doctors, teachers, fire inspectors, social workers, and counselors of all kinds, must have documented proof that the system did not fail at their end of it. A paper trail shows the investigator just what was done about any complaints that could point to coming disaster. That paper trail is very, very important because, when the calamity comes, everybody wants to know where and how the system failed, and who was responsible for the failure! People have lost their jobs because they failed to follow the prescribed procedure, and thus caused the system to fail and calamity to occur. Calamity comes only when the system fails, and the system fails only when somebody in it doesn't do his job. Therefore the blame for any calamity can usually be traced to some negligent or disobedient service professional who must be punished. That's what a lot of people think. That's why paperwork is often more important than people-work to professions in social work, unfortunately. But there is something wrong with this thinking.

Just when we began to believe that America could put together a system to prevent calamity, it is hard to determine. Some of the "Great Society" programs created by the federal government in the 1960s certainly had such ambitions, but "the system" really began sooner. For decades, maybe over a century, public education has had its zealots that saw in the school system potential to cure all ills. Psychology and psychiatry have long (and too long) exaggerated their effectiveness in solving behavioral problems. Science in its many forms has been given almost limitless power in the minds of our people. They believe that, given enough time, science can cure any sickness and solve any problem. However or whenever it happened, the idea that life is perfectible by man, and that we can and should prevent all calamities, did prevail in the public mind. Then, at some point, we began to think that we had done it, that we had put in place a great system that, if worked properly, would prevent all calamities and cure all ills. The problem is that such a system has notbeen put into place, and that such a system cannot be constructed.

We must come back in our minds to reality. We must return to the fact that bad things are done because bad people do them, and not fundamentally because the system failed. NO system can prevent an individual from making a terrible choice, unless, of course, that system amounts to some kind of totalitarianism. Bad things happen because life includes unpreventable calamities. The forces of nature, the flaws in human nature, the occurrence of human error, and the possibility of disaster are always threatening to inflict pain in our lives. And pain sometimes cannot be prevented or alleviated. The prophet Jeremiah (often called the weeping prophet of the Bible) is recorded as having once said,

"Woe is me for my hurt! my wound is grievous: but I said, Truly this is a grief, and I must bear it." (Jeremiah 10:19)
We must simply bear some instances of grief. No agency can prevent them. No specialist can cure them. No amount of money, public or private, can make them go away. We must simply endure and bear our grief with the help of God.

Americans should go back to believing two great doctrines once preached from nearly every pulpit.

  1. That there is a curse on creation which resulted from Adam's sin that is the real source of all misery and pain, and

  2. That men need to call for divine deliverance in their experiences with the troubles of life.

Certainly every effort should be made to prevent disasters and crimes. However, we must stop fooling ourselves into thinking that calamity comes only when our amazing "system" to prevent it somehow unexpectedly fails. Normally, criminals are responsible for their own destructive behavior. Usually punishment would be more appropriate than treatment. Unfortunately wrong behavior cannot be prevented except by totalitarian means, which would spell the end of our freedom. Bad actions are deterred by swift and predictable justice and punishment, and better by proper home life and religious training. The "system" will never give us utopia; it cannot. When the Kingdom comes, God will bring it; only He can. In the meantime let us face reality, deal with the wrongs and troubles of life sensibly, and stop blaming "the system."

Monthly Article
Thur, 18 Nov1999
by Dr. Rick Flanders
currently Pastor of
Juniata Baptist Church
Juniata Baptist Church
5656 Washburn Road
Vassar, MI 48768
(517) 823-7848

Dr. Rick Flanders Biographical Data

Converted in 1963 through a radio ministry.
Earned B.A. and M.A. degrees from Bob Jones University.
Honorary D.D. from Pensacola Christian College.
Pastor at Juniata Baptist Church since 1973.
On BCPM Board, (Baptist Church Planting Ministry)
and also MACS. (Michigan Association of Christian School)

Articles published in the;
Sword of the Lord
Baptist Preacher,
Christian View of the News,
Pulpit Helps,
Maranatha Watchman
Church Bus News,
and other national periodicals.

His Majesty's Service
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Teaching the Word
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